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Valparaiso groups pitch in to help fire-ravaged namesake city in Chile

Standing amid photographs devastaticaused by Chilean fire over Easter weekend are (from left) Valparaiso Family YMCA CEO Bob Wanek Mayor

Standing amid photographs of the devastation caused by the Chilean fire over the Easter weekend are (from left) Valparaiso Family YMCA CEO Bob Wanek, Mayor Jon Costas and Valparaiso University Director of Study Abroad Programs Julie Maddox. The three announced on Tuesday their organizations' plans to raise $120,000 to help the namesake city of Valparaiso, Chile, recover from the fires and help the people who need shelter, food and aid. | James D. Wolf Jr./for Sun-Times Media

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Updated: May 24, 2014 6:35AM



VALPARAISO — To assist their namesake city in Chile after forest fires destroyed much of it, the Valparaiso city government, the Valparaiso YMCA and Valparaiso University plan to raise $120,000 for relief.

At a City Hall news conference Tuesday, Mayor Jon Costas, Valparaiso Family YMCA CEO Bob Wanek and Valparaiso University director of Study Abroad Programs Julie Maddox said the aid will go to two parts of relief effort.

From now until July, $50,000 will help in immediate care.

That includes rehabilitating the structurally sound YMCA Community Development Center of Las Cañas, where 60 families are living and 250 meals are served a day, as well as providing medicines, food, clothing, water mattresses, furniture, kitchen utensils and tools.

Organizers hope to serve 150 people through the soup kitchen.

The second phase, from July to January, will handle reconstruction of the Chilean YMCA and of the homes of YMCA volunteers who’ve helped others.

The fire ravaged the hills of Chile over the weekend, and local authorities estimate 15 people died, 2,000 homes were destroyed and 10,000 residents were evacuated, Costas said.

Only two buildings remain standing — a church and the Las Cañas YMCA, where volunteers from the Indiana city have been doing work over the years.

Valparaiso’s history with its Chilean counterpart began in 1837, when the city was renamed in honor of that place where David Porter, the county’s namesake, fought in the War of 1812.

The Valparaiso in Chile and the Valparaiso in Indiana aren’t officially “sister cities,” but the YMCA established a partnership with the Chilean YMCA in Valparaiso, Wanek said.

Chileans have visited here, and every summer the local YMCA and Valparaiso University send college students with high Spanish language skills on an eight- to 12-week internship in community outreach programs.

Maddox said the university has established a relationship with Universidad Vina del Mar there, and the Valparaiso University College of Nursing sends faculty and students there.

The YMCA has committed $20,000 in resources to relief, and VU’s Social Action Leadership Team is raising money.

Victims are not in need of hard goods like blankets and clothing.

“The people around Chile’s Valparaiso have been donating those kinds of things, and the real need is monetary,” Wanek said

People can make financial donations online at https://donate.ymca.net/world-service-donation/aspx.



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